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Lostwatch: With Friends Like These…

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SPOILER ALERT: Before you read this post, turn your TV 108 degrees and watch last night’s episode of Lost.

Well, that was interesting. And I don’t really know what to say about it.

I’m at the point where I feel I can’t really evaluate final-season episodes of Lost until the season is over. As the series is entering its endgame, it appears as though it’s going to play more like one long episode, particularly where the Island is concerned. That is: interesting, intriguing things happened–the scene in the lighthouse was one of Lost’s better gee-whiz visuals in a while–and they will pay off or they won’t, but there’s no way of really knowing yet.

“The Lighthouse” moved the endgame forward, but it also reinforced some of my concerns about how this is playing out, and about Jacob and Smokey’s godlike roles in the story.

What we do know is: 2007 or alt-2004, Jack Shepard is going to be a man with daddy issues. Or, in alt-2004, a daddy with issues. I was surprised how affected I was by his moment with new son David at the piano recital–considering this was a relationship we’d known for all of an hour–but as with everything alt-2004, it’s hard to know how permanent or meaningful it is. When and if the timelines are reconciled, will David simply vanish like a puff of Smokey? If so, can we really be that invested in his relationship with Dad?

It was regardless a fine performance from Matthew Fox, who’s grown in this role. (Something I was reminded of both by his nostalgia-trip to the Caves, and by the Party-of-Five-era photo of Fox on his table in alt-2004.) He’s become adept at showing us the “broken” Jack, who–with his mother as always–is trying to fix other people as a way of avoiding what he can’t fix in himself. But with David, we also got to see hints of a Jack who was a bit more in control–not just in control of his drinking, but getting the perspective necessary to pull himself together and be a supportive father to his son.

It also became ever more clear that a lot has changed in changed in alt-2004. Jack, having already noticed a scar on his neck, now sees one on his hip, and becomes aware that something is amiss. He has (we assume) an ex-wife out there somewhere. And as on the Island, Claire is re-entering the picture: another suggestion that the two timelines are somehow going to collide.

As for the lighthouse: is it still there to lead people to the Island, or was it only a ruse for Jacob to lead Jack to discover something in himself? Clearly it had some function in observing and finding the Candidates, brought to the Island; in addition to Jack’s house, we saw some kind of steepled church and a classical Asian building reflected in the mirrors. But the name on the heading Jacob directed Hurley to use–108 degrees–appeared to be “WALLACE,” crossed out, suggesting that that bearing had already been used.

So is there someone else coming to the Island? It’s getting mighty crowded as is. Then again, with all the balls in the air already, there are still characters who haven’t yet returned to the scene–Desmond, for instance, and for that matter, Charles Widmore. How many people can get back into the action in the few hours left.

Only Jacob knows–assuming he does. Apparently he can manifest to Hurley as well as Charlie and the other dead can; when Hurley mentions that Jacob is like Obi-Wan Kenobi, he neglects to mention that at one point or another he had the whole Jedi Council in his head. Like Obi-Wan, he seems to be there to guide, but not act directly.

Which is just as well, because as intriguing as the Island mythology is, the characters are more interesting when they’re acting of their own volition, not when they’re being moved like chesspieces by the gods. The idea that he’s been watched, and maybe controlled, by Jacob all this time is disturbing to Jack, and it is to me too. This is the thing that worries me most about Lost’s endgame: if the characters turn out to have been manipulated in some larger game by Jacob and Smokey all along, it could rob them of their free agency, turning the story into something almost pre-psychological, like a Greek myth. How much can you identify with a game piece?

Speaking of the Island’s gods, or whoever they are, things are a bit more colorful over at Smokey’s haunt, as Claire re-enters the story and introduces us to her “friend”–and her axe. This was by far the most weird, the most creepy and the most tantalyzing part of the episode.

Claire has indeed gone full-on Rousseau, right down to the obsession with finding her baby. (The macabre fake skull-and-fur baby was the episode’s other OMG visual.) She’s been taken and tortured, a la Sayid, by the Others (and has the brand mark to prove it). And she’s developed a way with an axe that leads Jin to lie to her about Kate’s having taken Aaron, presumably both to get Claire to the Temple and because of what Claire would do to Kate if she believed it to be true. I didn’t really buy Emile de Ravin as bad-ass woodswoman, but she did persuasively sell Claire’s particular brand of sweet-faced crazy: even more menacing than her threats to the captive Other was her question to Jin, “You’re still my friend, aren’t you?”

Speaking of friends, the closing reveal was that Smokey is Claire’s “friend,” who presumably has been getting inside her head and influencing her in her war with the Others these past three years. Further, Claire hints at something we’ve guessed at—that Christian, the Ghost Dad she’s been hanging out with, has also had her under his spell, and therefore may also be (or may have been?) Smokey.

A cool twist, but again it raises the same questions of free will as Jacob’s interference. It’s always been clear that the Oceanic survivors were caught up in something bigger than themselves. But if it turns out that, more than that, their actions have been engineered all along, it makes them something less than full characters. I’m guessing–wondering, hoping–that this season leads to them, or some of them, wising up to Jacob and Smokey’s game and rebelling against it, asserting their own independence.

I hope so, because as cool as the lighthouse was, and as well as Terry O’Quinn plays Smokey, I signed up to watch the story of these people, not the Jacob and Smokey Show. With “friends” like these, who needs enemies?

Now the hail of bullets:

* I’m sure somebody out there has already identified the other buildings we saw in the lighthouse mirrors. Was the steeple from the church where Jacob met Sawyer? Was the Asian building/compound from the Jin-Sun storyline? I’m too lazy to go back and revisting the season five finale, so answer it for me, Internet.

* “I just lied to a samurai.” Speaking of Hurley, once again he was used to give voice to a fan theory: this time, What if Adam and Eve are the skeletons of Oceanic survivors? When he talked about the Island-as-Purgatory theory, it was to knock that theory down; I don’t know if this was also meant to knock down that explanation, or just acknowledge that it would have occurred to the characters too.

* So Hurley is again seeing the dead and talking to Jacob. What about Miles, who’s now on the scene and does that sort of thing for a living? Would Miles only be able to pick up Jacob’s vibes at the statue, where he died? Is there something fundamentally different between Hurley’s visions and Miles’ medium work?

* Speaking of Hurley, that Obi-Wan line reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about Lost for a while now: it’s really a kind of remake of Star Wars for the original trilogy’s original audience, with more mature themes–isn’t it? You have similar character archetypes (Sawyer as Han Solo, etc.), you have the apparitions of fallen leaders, you have the overt references (“Some Like It Hoth”) and you have the Anakin Skywalker-like fall to the dark side of Ben.

Also–though this is surely coincidence–there are six Star Wars movies and six seasons of Lost. In which case, bring on the Ewoks!